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Mobstacle Course

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Our hero has to get to his destination yesterday, and he's on foot. Unfortunately, there's a huge crowd between him and his goal, and for whatever reason, shouting at them to get out of his way just isn't cutting it. His only option is to weave his way through the crowd Frogger-style; changing speeds, cutting left and right to avoid clumps of people, and sometimes even ducking under carried objects and jumping over the incidental obstacles like benches and garbage cans. Generally, if the person is being chased or is fleeing a scene, they'll not even bother dodging, preferring to just bull their way through a crowd as best they can. (Naturally, the hero has to be nicer about it than the villain.) Of course, if the person being chased does this right, they tend to be Lost in a Crowd. If the hero is holding onto a MacGuffin, odds are he'll lose it, and have to play a game of Crowd Hockey in order to get it back.

If one half of a couple is about to leave on a plane/boat/train/whatever, the odds that the other person will have to run the Mobstacle Course increase exponentially.

This can often be in a scary dream sequence: the character is doing their best to move forward in the crowd, only to find that said crowd is getting denser and denser, resulting in the character being swept away as if in a tidal wave. Happens quite a bit in Crime and Punishment Series with the "Cop(s) chasing Suspect(s)" version.

See Chase-Scene Obstacle Course when the hero start knocking over random objects behind him in order to hinder his pursuers.

Often a case of Truth in Television. Occasionally Played for Laughs. Compare to Excuse Me, Coming Through!, where the crowd parts just when the hero or villain needs it to. If the character chooses a more direct path through the masses, it's a Foe-Tossing Charge. See also Le Parkour.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Psycho Busters, one character is trapped in a illusion of a town full of zombies. He uses this trope to avoid the zombies.
  • In One Piece, Nami went through one of these to get to the Going Merry at the end of the Arlong Arc, though this example is a bit different from the norm in that the crowd is an issue because they're trying to thank her. Being Nami, she not only gets through the crowd with ease, she steals all their money in the process.
  • In the Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple manga, while training for the fight with Pollux, Kenichi's Trickster Mentor Hayato Fuurinji made him use this as a training technique.
  • Sena in Eyeshield 21 has been doing this since he was a kid, so his dodging skills are insane: Even while holding cellphones or other loads he can easily weave through crowds while not noticeably hitting many of them. This is actually his main Establishing Character Moment and the moment that kicks off the whole plot: Hiruma watches him run away from the Ha-Ha Bros as they continue their usual bullying routine, even weaving through a rush hour mob, and sees a perfect football player.

  • In Don Rosa's Donald Duck story "On Stolen Time", Donald and his nephews chase the Beagle Boys atop the heads of a crowd of people who have been frozen in time.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Aladdin, our introduction to the titular character occurs as he dashes with a stolen piece of bread through crowds, fakirs, and herds of sheep with ease while his pursuers take the "toss-everyone-aside" approach.
  • This is how Kronk loses the bag holding the unconscious Kuzco in The Emperor's New Groove.
  • When pursuing the Screenslaver across apartment corridors in Incredibles 2, Elastigirl uses her Building Swing skills to get past the crowd in her way.
  • In Turning Red, Mei runs home after school like this including jumping over a box and rolling under a bundle of bamboo.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted in Hackers, where the heroes are able to not only weave through the crowded conditions around Grand Central Station easily, they use the crowd (and the traffic) to keep the FBI at bay for a while.
  • Used in Batman: The Movie as they attempt to reach the United World building.
  • Deckard bumps into several pedestrians while pursuing Zhora in Blade Runner.
  • Subverted in Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior in which Tony Jaa, confronted by a crowd, runs across people's heads. The Mooks chasing him are unable to duplicate the feat and must push through the Mobstacle Course.
  • Likewise in "Crocodile" Dundee, Mick Dundee "takes the high road" across people's shoulders when he can't make his way through a crowd to get to Sue Charlton, getting a "Eureka!" Moment when it's pointed out everyone is crammed in like a flock of sheep — so he crosses the way a sheepdog would.
  • In The Princess Bride movie, Inigo attempts this, but quickly becomes frustrated. Good thing he has Fezzik next to him to shout "Everybody move!"
  • The Matrix:
    • During the "Agent Training Program", Neo is continually bumping into people as he and Morpheus walk against the flow through a crowded New York City street. Conveniently, the crowd parts for Morpheus.
    • Later, Neo is forced to do this while running through crowds of people in the streets while escaping from the three Agents near the end of the movie. The Agents tend to just throw people out of their way. Or shoot them. Or simply change places with them.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy does this for a bit while chasing the basket Marion is in, as soon as he realizes she's Lost in a Crowd.
  • In Broadcast News, Joan Cusack's character must cross a Mobstacle Course to get a badly needed newstape to the broadcast booth in order for the tape to be included in that night's news broadcast. She barely gets it there in time, but she gets it there.
  • Equilibrium: John Preston does this at least twice. He didn't have any place in particular to go one of the times, he was just running to blow off some steam or possibly to be alone and he floored a random citizen onto his back!
  • James Bond examples:
    • Thunderball features the classic chase in the Junkanoo parade, where an injured Bond is desperately trying to get away from Fiona Volpe and her Mooks. He fails, and makes it out alive only thanks to some Deadly Dodging.
    • The ski chase in On Her Majesty's Secret Service has this right in the middle, at Bond's Darkest Hour after escaping from Piz Gloria...which is when Tracy di Vincenzo re-enters the plot to save his bacon.
    • Casino Royale (2006): Mollaka, the bomb-making Le Parkour villain, gets chased by Bond in Madagascar through a construction site and an embassy. He practically goes out of his way to push and shove bystanders aside as well as kick one off a superstructure quite ruthlessly, even though he demonstrates several times that he can avoid obstacles with ease with his free running skill.
    • Quantum of Solace: Bond chases a bad guy through the audience of a horse race.
    • Skyfall: Bond chasing Silva through the London Underground during rush hour.
    • Spectre: Bond chases Marco Sciarra through a whole parade of people celebrating the Day of the Dead in the pre-title sequence.
  • The Wind and the Lion: While the U.S. Marines are trotting through the streets of Tangier, they run into a crowd of people and push them out of the way, including throwing two people into market stalls along a wall.
  • Wanted. One of the various climatic scenes is this trope on fire. The main character runs through a huge loom hallway covered with explosive rats, shooting the hell out of everyone that gets in his way, never once reloading his weapons- instead, he catches the guns his enemies drop out of the air. And he doesn't stop moving.
  • The climax of 12 Monkeys takes place in such a scene at the airport.
  • Inception: After meeting Eames, Cobb is chased through the streets of Mombasa by Mooks sent by Cobal Engineering, and must shove his way past bystanders. Luckily, when the people chasing Cobb start shooting, their aim is all over the place
  • In the Hungarian film Kontroll Bulsco's gang chase a graffiti artist, which requires pushing past and through random people.
  • In GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra The Joes use the Accelerator suits going through traffic chasing after Cobra, causing massive crunches in cars that get in the way and ending with them stopped cold on their backs a couple times.
  • In Unknown (2011), during an on-foot chase scene through a hospital, the assassin is constantly blocked by people in his path, which prevents him from catching on to the hero who can escape.
  • In Foreign Correspondent, diplomat van Meer is assassinatednote  in a public square in Amsterdam in front of a large crowd. The assassin has to push his way through the crowd to escape, and as the scene takes place on a typically rainy Dutch day, his escape path is indicated by the motion of the crowd's umbrellas.

  • The main character of Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom does this all the time, which leads directly to his employment at Disney World.
  • Done by Rincewind in The Last Continent, in a Shout-Out to the "Crocodile" Dundee example above.
  • In one of E. E. "Doc" Smith's books (an early Lensman one, if memory serves) our hero is undercover with some criminals on a very highly populated planet - the criminals are experts at running the crowds, and the hero has to barge people aside and generally rush to keep up, and hope that the villain doesn't turn back to check on him. The expectation was that a guy in the position he was claiming to hold would know how to run the crowds, and it was a sort of Secret Test of Character.
  • New Moon does this in the big Italy scene. You've got to get to the other side of the square before the clock stops tolling in order to save your beloved from a successful suicide they really don't want to do..... did I mention we're having a festival?
  • 'Strip Running' in The Caves of Steel is based on this, complicated by walkways of increasing and decreasing speed.
  • In Uncle, the Old Monkey has to travel through crowds very often. His favorite way is going over people's heads.

    Live Action TV 
  • Seinfeld does this with George while trying to get a Frogger arcade console across a busy New York City street. Hilarity Ensues. Video.
  • In the Heroes episode, Turn and Face the Strange, the ordinarily calm and collected Mr. Bennet has to make a desperate on-foot escape through a city street, comically knocking over just about every pedestrian in his way.
  • In the Community episode "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design" a Chase Scene occurs that includes examples of Excuse Me, Coming Through! and Mobstacle Course in the form of a Latvian Independence Parade... all within the confines of a blanket fort.
  • Happens when The Amazing Race visits big cities, especially in India. Sometimes used as a task where teams have to find a specific person within the mob.
  • In the fifth episode of Wolf Hall, Henry VIII is proclaimed dead after a jousting accident and Thomas Cromwell rushes to the scene to find a tent crammed with Howards and Boleyns and other panicking or opportunistic individuals, all yelling their heads off. He has to push and shove his way through to get to Henry and do some proto-CPR on him. (There's a bit of Enforced Method Acting during the scene, as the other actors were supposed to make it easier for Mark Rylance to get through, but were too caught up in acting the mob that he really did have to grab them and shove them aside.)
  • Game of Thrones
    • In "No-one", Arya Stark when fleeing from the Waif through the streets of Braavos.
    • In "The Long Night", Arya Stark escapes a horde of wights charging up a staircase at her by doing a Staircase Tumble down their backs!

    Video Games 
  • Dead Rising lets you do this through crowds of zombies if you position your jumps right. Not in the Wii version, where you instead just blast your way through with your guns.
  • One of the highlighted features of Assassin's Creed was the protagonists capacity to make his way unnoticed through crowds, weaving in and out, and gently pushing people aside without breaking pace.
  • Mario Party 5: In the minigame Pushy Penguins, the players are standing on a snowy coast, and then a multitude of penguins (including big ones) approaches. The objective is to avoid being dragged into the cold water by the incoming penguins, which becomes increasingly difficult as more of them approach. The last player remaining wins, though more than one can win if they survive after 30 seconds.
  • Ryo ends up having to do this a few times while chasing various people in Shenmue.
  • You do this automatically if someone's in your way in [PROTOTYPE]. If you're sprinting then the crowd is sent flying. In the former case they'll get annoyed and confront you if you stick around, in the later case they'll start running and screaming (or shooting if they're a soldier or policeman). This can be an annoyance though, when trying to do stealth.
  • The Back to the Future (1989) game for NES. And what's better, everyone wants Marty dead, including guys carrying windows and hula hoop girls.

     Web Video 
  • Happens often in videos by Ocean Conservation Namibia, who free seals from entanglements in fishing debris. The seal they want is in the middle of a large group of seals on the beach, which are all charging for the safety of the sea at once. An example.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Futurama episode "A Taste of Freedom", during Freedom Day (the day for doing whatever you want with no regard for consequences) Bender attaches a cowcatcher to himself for pushing through crowds.
  • In the Kim Possible episode "The Golden Years", Drakken and Shego are operating out of an ice cream truck. Shego tries to obstruct Kim's pursuit by tossing out a batch of ice cream bars to attract a crowd of kids into Kim's path.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television, of course, especially in large cities.
  • There's an actual tag-like game involving this and Le Parkour: when in areas with very little people, you're allowed to move any way you like, even Roof Hopping, but when in a crowded area, your objective is to cause as little commotion as possible and still move as fast as you can. Usually, the one with the best "crowd intuition" wins.
  • The employees of theme parks (especially the larger ones, like the Disney Theme Parks) become World Champions at the art of navigating a Mobstacle Course. Having to get from Point A to Point B through a crowd of 80,000+ people gets them lots of practice.
  • The entire sport of roller derby could be summed up as a) making the most impassable Mobstacle Course possible for the opposition and b) helping your team pass through the opposition's Mobstacle Course as quickly as possible.
  • This is essentially what bicycle messengers in big cities do (the most famous are in New York.) They navigate between people on the sidewalk and cars on the street. Their entire selling point is being faster than on foot, and faster than a car since they can dodge in between them on the road.
  • Anyone who busses tables at a buffet-style restaurant has to learn to do this while carrying a stack of plates.